57th Street Development Boom: Becoming New York’s Most Prominent Artery

While 42nd and 34th Streets have been the historic focal points of Manhattan, the newest wave of development  will propel 57th Street to a similar significance. The difference will be in terms of who actually uses each artery; 34th and 42nd are both dominated by transit hubs (Penn Station and Grand Central, respectively), while 57th’s significance will be purely from a density/architectural standpoint. Thus, while 34th and 42nd are dominated by tourists and commuters, 57th could potentially be the most legitimate hub for people who actually live in Manhattan.

At the moment, there are at least eight projects under construction (or imminently so) along 57th Street, with two of these projects exceeding 1,000 feet. Impressive height is only one of the features of the projects along 57th Street–groundbreaking designs that could change the direction of modern architecture are another.

Towards the western section of 57th, Bjarke Ingels’ ‘Pyramid’ is slated to begin construction this year. The design is a first in its juxtaposition of urbanity with green space, and will rise nearly 500′ to the tip. The building will feature quite prominently in the views of Manhattan from across the Hudson, given nothing else can be built to the west.

The Pyramid, via NYMag

Immediately across the street at 610 West 57th, AvalonBay has plans for a 48-story mixed use tower. The bulk of the tower will be residential, but the lowest floors will contain approximately 270,000 square feet of retail space. The residential component is expected, but such a large addition of retail would be a major transformation for the western portion of 57th, currently devoid of large stores.

Further east along 57th, development promises enormous potential. Nothing official has been released for 225 West 57th, but the large plot (owned by Extell) holds promise for something incredibly large–the site has roughly 1.3 million square feet of air rights, 30% more than Extell’s One57 rising one block to the east.

The next block has the most activity of all, with three projects now in various stages of construction. As mentioned, One57 continues to rise, with topping-out likely before summer. One57 will be 57th Street’s first 1,000’+ building, but it won’t be the sole holder of the distinction for long. On the same block, the Hotel Willow is also under construction, and the building is almost above street-level. Across the street, the lot of 105 West 57th lies vacant, however recent buzz indicates the site should be under construction as well by the end of the year, adding another almost 700′ tower to an incredibly dense block.

57th Street Canyon with One57, image from Portzamparc via Curbed

The most impressive proposal of all lies another few blocks to the east, at 432 Park Avenue. The retail component fronting 57th may have the address of 50 East 57th, and the building’s location at the intersection of two of New York’s most desirable thoroughfares couldn’t be more prime. Recent Department of Buildings filings indicate the building will rise to just short of 1,400 feet, although nothing has been finalized.

Finally, the project at 250 East 57th will be rising soon as well (718′ to the top). The building on the project’s site is currently a school, and the developer has almost completed its replacement nearby–demolition should begin shortly, allowing construction to proceed on the large project (which will also feature a new Whole Foods as part of its retail component).

250 East 57th via Curbed

An interesting caveat for the projects along the eastern end of 57th Street is the potential rezoning of the neighborhood. Mayor Bloomberg wants to upzone the ‘Midtown East’ district by 20-30%, as New York’s current office market is incredibly old by global standards. 250 East 57th is beyond the scope of the rezoning (as it’s along Second Avenue), however 432 Park would definitely be impacted. Fast-tracking the zoning change, which seems to be Bloomberg’s intention, could mean a tower even taller than the already proposed behemoth at 1,400′ or so.

All in all, the projects rising along 57th represent a massive transformation to a thoroughfare that has long existed in a state of confusion, straddling the border of midtown and uptown Manhattan. The number of gargantuan projects currently underway affirm 57th Street’s Midtown identity, as the scale of what’s being built is absolutely enormous. While several of the projects will be ‘filler’ (Hotel Willow, and potentially anything else under 1,000′ feet), the number of architectural standouts under construction is stunning. Personal opinions aside, the ‘Pyramid’ is going to be the first of its kind in merging skyscrapers and green space–similarly, 432 Park will push the envelope when it comes to height/width ratios, besides gaining the title of New York’s new tallest (at least, per roof height). 

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